Human rights group Karapatan called for the immediate release of Protestant Pastor Benjie Gomez, a minister of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), who was arrested on June 6.
Gomez was arrested after holding Sunday service in the town of Leon Postigo in Zamboanga del Norte province on charges of murder.
The pastor is the administrative minister of UCCP in the town of Mutia in the same province and a known advocate of the rights of the Subanen indigenous people.
In 2014, Gomez was arrested and faced similar charges of murder and “frustrated murder,” which were later dismissed due to lack of evidence.
The pastor’s arrest last week came after charges were filed against UCCP Bishop Hamuel Tequis of UCCP’s Southeast Mindanao Jurisdiction.
“The continuing persecution and judicial harassment against UCCP show the contempt of the current administration against those who work for and minister to the rights and welfare of indigenous peoples and other disadvantaged groups,” said Cristina Palabay, secretary general of Karapatan.
She said the immediate release of Gomez and other Protestant church leaders who were earlier arrested “is imperative as the unjust acts against them are driven by lies and violations on their right to due process.”